In the front line of a transformation journey


Diego Horcajada, February 2018

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the official launch conference of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Switzerland, a network of world-class scientists, universities, research centres, innovative businesses and civil society organizations working together to implement transformative solutions to achieve the Agenda 2030 and Paris Agreement in Switzerland.

I would like to thanks Dr. Katrin Muff, former dean of the Business School of Lausanne, for her invitation to join the event. It was a great learning experience and networking opportunity.

The conference counted with the participation of Bertrand Piccard, the first man along with Brian Jones to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the globe, and founder of the Solar Impulse Foundation, an organization with a pioneering vision to “bridge the gap between ecology and economy”. You might know Bertrand Piccard and Solar Impulse for the first successful round-the-world solar powered flight.

Several prominent business and political leaders were part of the panelists in the conference. Among them: Guido Schmidt-Traub (Executive Director of the UN SDSN, operating under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General), Teresa Ribera (Director of the IDDRI-Institute for sustainable development and international relations) and Sibyl Anwander (Head of the Economics and Innovation Division at the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment).

After listening to several inspiring speeches, conference participants split into 8 parallel break-out groups where eminent experts introduced 8 distinct topics such as sustainable finance, urban development, social equity, and digitalization, among others.

I was invited to participate in the digitalization group, where Nick Beglinger, Co-Founder and CEO of Cleantech21 (an independent and non-profit foundation fostering sustainable global development with the power of business) introduced us to digital developments such Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IOT) and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), better known as “blockchain.” Once our group understood the topic, we initiated collaborative discussions. It was of course not expected to deliver solutions in a two-hour working session; rather the idea was to identify key success factors to better exploit the benefits of the digital revolution for the common good.

Three key outcomes of the digitalization collaborative session:

  1. The challenges for sustainable development cannot be solved separately by government, business or science; rather it is fundamental to have the appropriate regulatory frameworks to foster collaboration among the three stakeholder groups.
  2. AI, OIT and DLT represent a tremendous potential for the development the economy, but they need to be embedded in sustainable development strategies.
  3. Interdisciplinary working groups need to be created under the umbrella of the SDSN Switzerland to accelerate our journey to deliver the Agenda 2030 and Paris Agreement.

Each of the participants in the working session committed to communicate and share learnings to raise awareness in their personal and professional networks.

At the end of the day we were gifted with a presentation by the Swiss Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry Jacques Dubochet, who delighted the audience with an inspiring and down-to-earth speech where he even questioned the current secretive patent system in relation to the social and environmental challenges of our times.

I am looking forward to collaborating with developments coming out of SDSN, and meanwhile I invite you to check the SDSN in your country.

Diego Horcajada

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